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SpaceX releases video of powered booster landing

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July 22, 2014

A video has recorded the successful landing of the Falcon 9

A video has recorded the successful landing of the Falcon 9

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During the recent Orbcomm OG2 launch, SpaceX attempted its second powered landing during a commercial mission, but this time you don’t have to take the company’s word for it. As the first stage made a controlled touchdown on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, a video camera recorded the event. SpaceX has released the video for the public to see – give or take a few ice crystals.

The two-stage Falcon 9 booster launched on July 14 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying six Orbcomm OG2 communication satellites in the second mission flight of a Falcon booster equipped with landing legs. After second stage separation, the usual fate of a first stage rocket would have been to crash into the ocean or burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. However, this latest version of the Falcon 9 booster was equipped with a trio of landing legs.

After separation, the booster fired its engines to slow it down from its hypersonic velocity and return it to its designated landing spot. As it approached the ground, the engines fired again, the legs sprang open, and the booster touched down vertically at near zero velocity on the surface of the ocean. Since the booster wasn't designed to land on water, the test ended with the craft falling over on its side when SpaceX says it lost its hull integrity and broke up.

Falcon 9 taking off from Cape Canaveral

The video released by SpaceX is also a second attempt to record a powered landing during a commercial launch mission. The first attempt landed in heavy stormy seas and the video returned was almost indecipherable. During the second attempt, the video was much clearer, but during the descent the camera was obscured by ice crystals and water spots. Despite this, it was still possible to see the engines firing and the landing legs deploy.

SpaceX says that on future missions it will send an improved camera system that will minimize icing problems. According to the company, at this point it has built up enough experience to bring the booster down at the launch site or a floating platform. But because the next two missions will be to launch very high velocity payloads into geostationary orbit, there won’t be enough fuel left afterwards for a landing test. The next test will be on Flight 13, which SpaceX says is unlikely to succeed, but the next two flights will try to land on a solid surface, which will improve the chances.

The video below was transmitted from the Falcon 9 during the OG2 mission.

Source: SpaceX

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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13 Comments

Elon Musk has done what the superpowers could not. Will be a great day for the human race when the first successful ground landing occurs which appears likely this year.

Bravo SpaceX

Ken King
23rd July, 2014 @ 12:30 am PDT

Okay, that, that is awesome. Long live Elon Musk.

MattII
23rd July, 2014 @ 12:43 am PDT

What is wrong with using parachutes, instead of fuel? I suppose on land, there is a risk of damage, and retrieval at sea is probably expensive.

windykites1
23rd July, 2014 @ 03:40 am PDT

with parashuted you control the landing i think and As i long as i remember they use parachutes as secondary, in case if powered landing fails.

Kerby
23rd July, 2014 @ 05:04 am PDT

My guess is that a parachute big enough to slow the landing is also big enough to blow the rocket off course and/or big enough to tip the rocket over once it lands.

Bob Shock
23rd July, 2014 @ 07:10 am PDT

@windykites1

"What is wrong with using parachutes, instead of fuel?"

You haven't been following this project or you'd have your answer. Musk has several very long interviews where he addresses that question.

To answer briefly. Parchutes weigh more than the fuel to land, make solid "ground" landing impossible, and water landings make the first stage unusable. Executing a powered landing back at the spaceport will allow the first stage to be refurbished and reused. Reusing the first stage will dramatically improve reliability, safety, and reduce costs. (Long term)

If you need more detail google "SpaceX reusable" and find the videos of his interviews.

VirtualGathis
23rd July, 2014 @ 07:12 am PDT

The last SpaceX flight was significant in another respect: The second stage engine is restartable in space. This is very, very important when launching multiple satellites into different orbits.

Another issue that is seldom discussed is that the exact first stage, with only slight software modifications, could transport men from orbit to the surface of Mars or the Moon and return them to orbit. This is a major future potential.

The exceptional versatility of the second stage plus the reusability of the first stage is 20-30 years ahead of anything the Russians have and even further ahead of the US United Launch Alliance which depends on Russian rocket engines and Chinese guidance hardware.

This shows how a working capitalist model is compatible with a standard bureaucratic federal model. The federal model is very good at creating basic science and making those first, expensive, major steps. Then capitalism, because of its agility, is very, very good at exploiting that basic science and making it more reliable, safer, and cheaper.

The old NASA motto was "Faster, Better, Cheaper --- Pick Two." The SpaceX motto is "Faster, Better, Cheaper."

bobcat4424
23rd July, 2014 @ 09:04 am PDT

The big payoff will come from using the Falcon 9 with the Dragon 2 as a "space taxi" to take crews to and from the ISS. Those flights will be able to return both 1st and 2nd stages for reuse, and the Dragon 2 will return under powered landing, all back to ground landing sites. That flight mode will eliminate the extra cost of ocean recovery.

After the ISS missions start, expect to see the Bigelow commercial space station assembled, and flights to and from that habitat with the Dragon 2 carrying space tourists. Bigelow originally priced those tourism flights at $30M, based on using the expendable Atlas V, so using the SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable (which can carry either the Dragon 2, or the Boeing CST-100) should bring the price down, expanding the market.

Pat Kelley
23rd July, 2014 @ 09:05 am PDT

Great work, SpaceX! Cant wait for the next attempt!

@windykites1, as some mentioned parachutes weight more than the fuel that is needed for the final landing burn. You already need some fuel for doing the reentry burn (much more than for the landing burn) and the burn that brings the stage back to the launch site (also much more than for the landing burn). So the only fuel you would safe is for the final landing burn, which is very short and only done by one engine.

Skipjack
23rd July, 2014 @ 09:07 am PDT

Hey Musk old oil platforms can be had for cheap?

Leonard Foster Jr
23rd July, 2014 @ 09:36 am PDT

Why does Flash Gordon by Queen start playing in my head whenever I see something about the Falcon 9R?

If the plans of Reaction Engines Limited, come to fruition maybe I will start hearing the music from 2001 instead :)

Are we finally seeing the start of the space age proper?

Bob64
24th July, 2014 @ 04:51 pm PDT

@ windykites1

Parachutes are impossible to land precisely or softly and then the parachute pulls the vehicle over.

Soyuz lands somewhere in a vast open space, uses a rocket to soften the impact, and then get pulled onto its side by the parachute.

Slowburn
24th July, 2014 @ 10:01 pm PDT

Wow! I got a lot of responses. Thanks everybody.

As far as parachutes pulling the rocket onto its side, it could easily be jettisoned on touchdown. I realise precision landing is difficult.

@Skipjack, You do not need a re-entry burn for booster rockets, as they do not acquire orbital speed. I don't understand why you need less fuel to make a soft landing, then you need to take off, except for the weight of fuel you need to lift for take-off.

How about having auto rotating helicopter blades which lay flat against the sides of the booster? These could spring open and slow the descent. I would imagine these would weigh less than parachutes.

windykites1
2nd August, 2014 @ 05:25 am PDT
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